Attorney-Client Privilege: Should You Tell Your Lawyer Everything?
Attorney-client privilege is a widely misunderstood doctrine. Perhaps, we have collectively watched too many Saul Goodman-types on Netflix advising clients as to how they can evade legal burdens by using surreptitious techniques.
While that provides for incredible television, it does not paint a favorable picture of the legal community, nor does it reflect the attitude of any reputable lawyer.
However, at some point, I may need to discuss the underlying facts surrounding the case with my client. For instance, I may need to hear what happened, but to a point initially. There may be a determination that I cannot adequately represent you without knowing your version of the events and its viability as well as considering any potential defense theories in play.
Some lawyers do not want to know what the client did or did not do. This strategy may prevent your case from being “boxed in” to a particular version of events. However, we still keep ethical constraints in mind during the course of representation.
We cannot legally enter evidence that we know is false. For example, let’s say that someone injured you in a car accident. You mention to me that you were driving 30 miles an hour over the posted speed limit.
If you tell me that your speeding contributed to the accident, I may have to divulge this information outside of private discussions since neither of us can commit perjury. Simply put, your lawyer needs to know what is relevant.
In a criminal case, the prosecution has the burden of proving the elements of a charge. In some cases, after a review of the prosecutor’s discovery, it may be that the prosecution cannot prove their case.
The assessment of the case by your attorney is one of the keys to your case. Allow us to do one of the things we do best: determine what the opposing party can or cannot prove.
What About Attorney-Client Privilege?
Your lawyer cannot just share information or keep it private as he or she sees fit. Doing so would undermine the sharing of information between a client and his or her attorney.
The attorney-client privilege rule preserves the privacy of communications. Under it, your lawyer cannot divulge your secrets, nor can we force you to disclose them either. It is also vital to recognize that it applies to specific professional relationships.
In general, the attorney-client privilege is applicable when:
- a potential or current client communicates with a lawyer regarding legal advice
- the lawyer is acting in a professional capacity
- the client intended the communications to be private and acted accordingly
In short, your lawyer cannot share what you say to him or her unless it violates the crime-fraud exception. As a general heuristic, you can disclose anything you want to your lawyer unless you are intentionally committing or covering up a crime or fraud. This exception applies to both criminal and civil cases.
When Does Attorney-Client Privilege Not Apply?
If the crime-fraud exception is applicable, a lawyer may be forced to disclose the contents of the relevant communication. If a lawyer does not produce the requested materials, he or she risks disciplinary sanctions and criminal charges.
Examples of mandatory disclosures include the following.
- Asking an attorney to present false testimony
- Any form of lying or perjury upon the courts or third party
- Destroying or concealing evidence
- Witness tampering or threatening
- Concealing income, assets, and debts
- Any intentions that will result in severe injury or death to another
The most advantageous strategy is to follow the lead of an experienced New Mexico criminal defense lawyer. No matter what, always be truthful about what you say to him or her. Your lawyer has your best interests at heart throughout the entire time you work together.
Call Me Now for a Free Case Strategy Session
If you need legal representation that unwaveringly preserves your rights, contact my office for a free case strategy session. I will help guide the discussion regarding the facts of your case in the most ethical and effective possible manner.
You can reach my team at 505-587-8649 or via my secure contact form.